The SinCast Brackets

By Dann Todd: Chris Atkinson, Jeremy Scott, and Barrett Share are the brilliant movie mavens behind the SinCast.  Unlike their Cinema Sins YouTube program, the SinCast is a serious discussion about the relative merits of various movies.

Chris, Jeremy, and Barrett all have spent some time working in movie theaters.  A couple of them had rather extensive careers encompassing every position within your average movie house; including tickets, concessions, projectionist, and house manager.

The guys recently completed a series of podcasts discussing the best films of each year that they have been alive.  Their next step was to develop a March Madness-style bracket to arrive at the single best film from the years that they have been alive.  In the tradition of the American NCAA Division I basketball tournaments, SinCast Madness has 68 movies competing for the top slot.

The 47 “winners” from each year they were alive made the cut.  The rest of the field was selected from other noteworthy films from the same era.  The four #1 seeds include 2.5 science fiction/fantasy movies.  (Back to the Future, Children of Men, and Jaws (which is like Alien, but without the outerspacey stuff))  They have been quite kind towards SF/F movies in the past; periodically preferring genre works to Academy award winning stuff.

The competition begins with Episode #59. and eight movies vying for the four #16 seed slots.  The show notes include a link to an image of their bracket.  There is a cleaner version here.  They are already through the first round of competition.  So catch up!

The SinCast is available via SoundCloud and iTunes.

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SFF.net to Close

SFF.net, a longtime internet community that was historically important to the genre, will close on March 31.

Jeffry Dwight and Steve Ratzlaff informed their users:

We are sad to announce that, after 20 years, SFF Net is going offline. Although the reasons are prosaic (increasing costs, diminishing revenue), our deep regret is that we will be unable to continue serving our loyal friends. SFF Net has, at the core, been about online friendships, shared interests, and shared lives.

We deeply appreciate each of you who’ve joined us (and stuck with us) over the years.

Dozens of authors’ webpages will go away, and the SFF.net newsgroups/WebNews will be discontinued.

One reason writers gravitated to SFF.net is that it once hosted SFWA’s private forums, however, that connection was severed in 2014 when SFWA moved the content to its own domain.

Dwight and Ratzlaff have created an SFF Net Facebook page “where you may still interact with others from our community.”

SFF.net traditionally posted a rose at the top of the page to commemorate someone of interest to the community who has recently died — moonwalker Gene Cernan when I looked today. Soon there will be one last rose, for SFF.net itself.

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[Thanks to Cat Rambo for the story.]

The Greatest Show On Earth

By Steve Vertlieb: While I love animals, and certainly have no desire to see them treated cruelly, I can’t help but mourn the loss of the Ringling Bros-Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Perhaps we didn’t know any better these past one hundred forty-six years or, even worse, didn’t want to know about how circus animals were denied their freedom, or treated. Yet, it seems that a moment of historical innocence…an entire chapter, if you will…is passing us by, and leaving our lives forever.

The circus has been an integral part of our youthful memory since the beginning of things. It is difficult to recall a time when the passage of childhood into maturity was not marked by a joyous trip to the circus where wild animals would thrill millions of children, while daring trapeze artists flew “through the air with the greatest of ease,” and clowns of all shapes and sizes brought tears of laughter and happiness to “children of all ages.”

In a time of anger, bitterness, cynicism, and sadness…I cannot help but wonder if this passing of an iconic tradition leaves us better or worse….or if this passing is yet another nail in the coffin of eternal optimism, dreams, and of hope in a world that has grown somehow bleak and sad. Perhaps we didn’t know any better this last century-and-a-half. Perhaps we didn’t want to know…and yet, I cannot help but mourn the loss of a generations old tradition that left an indelible smile upon childhood’s memory. I cannot help but mourn the fading glimpse of a world that was, indeed, more innocent…yet undeniably happier…a world that is soon to become “Gone With The Wind.”

Yes, it’s the end, after 146 years…The Greatest Show On Earth will be no more in May of this year.

Help Zig Zag Claybourne

Author Clarence Young’s house was robbed on Friday the 13th. Young, who writes as Zig Zag Claybourne, is known for The Brothers Jetstream: Leviathan, Neon Lights, Historical Inaccuracies, By All Our Violent Guides, and In the Quiet Spaces (the last two under C.E. Young). He attended last year’s Worldcon in Kansas City.

Young needs help bouncing back from the robbery and has launched a YouCaring appeal, “Thieves Got In Clarence Young’s Temple”.

I’m a writer. Sometimes I’m Clarence Young; sometimes I’m Zig Zag Claybourne. I try never to write anything that doesn’t point a way no matter how bleak the path. 2015 and 16 were hard years for me personally and financially. 2017, so far, wants to be the bigger, badder sequel. A job opportunity I was counting on collapsed; I’m looking at the short end of essentially being homeless; on top of that, the house I’m in was thoroughly robbed… on Friday the bedamned thirteenth of 2017. I’m still reeling from it. But the violation also galvanized me to realize that I’m at a point of no return unless I reach out for help. I’ve always provided help, be it financially to family and friends, be it through my writing, mentoring, or trying my best to keep imaginations excited so everyone feels they belong to the tapestry of creation. Asking for help isn’t my go-to.

But I need you. Expenses to replace some of the stolen items, expenses to get into a new place, basic living expenses: I’ll be tapped out very, very soon. I’m not a frivolous person, and I’m generally frugal, but right now I can’t do this alone. I know everybody has their own loads. Any help would be deeply appreciated.

So far $1,843 of the $20,000 goal has been raised. Eileen Gunn, Nick Smith, Rajnar Vajra, and Kelly Robson are among the supporters.

[Via Black Gate.]

Kowal Drops SFWA Candidacy

Mary Robinette Kowal, who intended to run for SFWA President in 2017, has withdrawn after learning Cat Rambo will seek re-election.

Well, this is awkward… But here’s the thing. When I decided to throw my hat into the ring for SFWA president, I thought Cat Rambo wasn’t running again. I think contested elections are good, because it allows members to make decisions about the direction an organization is headed. Cat and I?

The fact is that she and I are politically aligned on where SFWA should be heading. We’re both interested in keeping things moving in a more inclusive and supportive direction. She’d already created a committee to start looking at getting health insurance for SFWA members, headed by board member Sarah Pinsker.

She’s the one who has been driving the changes to the Nebula Conference.
So… After a good deal of conversation, I realized that if I signed up to be on the health insurance committee and keep doing the programming for the Nebula Conference, that it allows me to focus my full attention on both of those things, while leaving Cat to handle the board and all the minutiae of making the organization run.

Kowal indicated she might be interested in running again in 2019.

Eric Flint Has Cancer Surgery

In two public Facebook posts Eric Flint tells about his cancer diagnosis and the splenectomy that followed.

He’d been feeling terrible

EVERYTHING exhausted me. I couldn’t write, I couldn’t edit, I could barely mage to read.

I had no appetite and if I tried to eat I would soon become nauseous. One of the byproducts of the process is that I’ve lost about 35 pounds over the past month.

To describe my mental state as “depressed” is a laugh. I actually felt like I was living in a black hole. I can honestly say that, psychologically as well as physically, that stretch of 2 weeks or so in the middle of this past month was the worst period of my whole life.

I’ve never experienced anything like it — hell, anything _close_ to it. I am normally an energetic person with a very sanguine outlook on life, and now I felt like Don Juan being dragged down to hell — and, dammit, I hadn’t even done anything to deserve it!

Fine, I’m almost seventy years old. Pfui. I’ve also got six brand new novels being published this coming year. Take that, whippersnappers. as you fumble at your pencil sharpeners.

Doctors found elevated levels of calcium in his blood were to blame, caused by a malignancy that was probably in his spleen. They did surgery to remove Flint’s spleen

The spleen is like a very very big lymph node and it acts mainly as a blood filter. Happily — for people in my situation — it’s one of the body’s organs that can just be removed without usually any major side effects. There are some, and they’re ongoing. When you lose your spleen, you will henceforth be more susceptible to many diseases and you have to be careful the rest of your life. The big ones you have to watch out for are pneumonia and influenza, but there are others like meningitis.

On the negative side, the spleen is basically just a big sack of blood. That means you can’t do a biopsy to find out what might be wrong with it. You’d just poke a hole and spill blood all over your abdominal sack and congratulations, stupe, if it is malignant you just spread the malignancy all over the place.

So with the spleen, it’s all or nothing. If you think there’s something wrong with it — and all of the tests were ringing alarm bells — you just take it out. If it turns out you were right and it was malignant, voila, then you’ve done the surgery. And if it turns out you were wrong, well, so it goes. Start over and find where the malignancy really was.

So, on Friday, they took my spleen out. It was enlarged about 150% above normal size — yes, that was one of the alarm bells — so the incision’s pretty damn impressive.

The results have been encouraging —

The ontological risk is still unclear and will remain so for some time. Weeks, at least; quite possibly, years. There are a number of early good signs in that respect, in my case, which I’ll explain after my next coffee break.

But the verdict is in with regard to the surgical risk, which can now be rated as Zero. The surgery was completely successful, everything went smoothly with no complications, and enough days have now gone by (six, roughly) that we can be fairly sure there’s no longer any risk of infection.

As soon as the spleen came out, all the blood test results dropped to normal: calcium levels, you name it. Needless to say, this is a good sign.

Flint indicated he’ll be writing a third post later with more post-surgery details.

Ray Bradbury Versus the Idiots

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By Carl Slaughter: I put in a lot of mouse time, a lot of chair time, and a lot of headphone time going through YouTube watching talks with Bradbury. His oral storytelling skills are almost as good as his print storytelling skills. Some of these stories I found already transcribed on the Internet, some I had to transcribe myself. Most of these stories were told at writers conferences.

He kept telling the writers not to listen to the idiots who try to shut you down and shut you out. So this theme of Bradbury versus the idiots developed in his talks. I selected the three best stories on this theme. And of course, Bradbury’s point in the end of all these stories is that if don’t listen to the idiots, you’ll eventually be vindicated. He used his personal experiences with naysayers, and his overwhelming vindication, to convince people, in this case writers, to believe in themselves

Ray Bradbury Versus the Smithsonian Observatory:

The Smithsonian Observatory hired Bradbury to revamp their presentation.

They were not happy with the way he jazzed up presentation. His defense: “You’ve got people falling asleep during your presentation!”

They were also not happy with his text and contended with him on several points, especially on scientific accuracy. He submitted a 32-page script. They sent back 28 pages of corrections.

He said the Earth was 12 billion years old. They said, “It’s much older.” He said, “How old?” They said, “14 billion.” He said, “Prove it.”

After going around with them for a couple of months, he said, “How much do you owe me?” They said, “15,000.” He said, “Just give me 7,000 and let me go. This is a bad marriage. You promised to take me into the woods and you didn’t.”

He sold the same presentation to the Air and Space Museum in Los Angeles. It’s entitled, The Great Shout of the Universe: The Creation of Mankind in the World.

Ray Bradbury Versus David Frost:

As Ray Bradbury told it:

My enthusiasm for space travel is so immense, that when I had a chance to be on the David Frost Show – when we landed on the moon, back in July, 31, 32 years ago – I went over to be on the David Frost Show. And we landed on the moon at 8:30 at night, London time.

So I got over there, and David Frost said, “I am now going to introduce an American genius.” I said, “That’s got to be me.” And he immediately introduced the next guest, Engelbert Humperdinck. Well, I was very upset. And then he said, “And the next guest after this is Sammy Davis, Jr.” And so they both got up and sang their stupid songs.

I walked off the show. Smoke was coming out of my ears. And the producer came running after me

He said, “What are you doing out here?” And I said, “I’m leaving the show.” I said, “That man in there is an idiot. He doesn’t realize the most important moment in the history of mankind – our landing on the moon. And he’s ruined this special night. Get me out of here.”

So they put me in a cab, and I went across London. I did a show with Walter Cronkite. I stayed up all night – I cried all night. I was on four or five different TV shows, on Telstar around the world.

And at 9 o’clock in the morning, I walked back across London, very happy and full of cheer, but totally exhausted. And I got out in front of my hotel, and I saw a little, tiny newspaper there. This wonderful, wonderful headline:

“The astronauts walk at 6 a.m.- Bradbury walks at midnight.”

Ray Bradbury Versus Critics:

In Bradbury’s words –

I had a thing happen to me when I was 9 years old, which is a great lesson.

That was in 1929. A single comic strip in the newspaper sent me into the future. The first comic strip of Buck Rogers.

In October 1929 I looked at that one comic strip, with its view of the future, and I thought, “That’s where I belong.”

I started to collect Buck Rogers comic strips. And everybody in the fifth grade made fun of me. I continued to collect them for about a month, and then I listened to the critics. And I tore up my comic strips. That’s the worst thing I ever did.

Two or three day later, I broke down. I was crying, and I said to myself, “Why am I crying? Whose funeral am I going to? Who died?” And the answer was, “Me.” I’d torn up the future.

And then I sat down with myself, and I was crying, and I said, “What can I do to correct this?” And I said, “Well, hell, go back and collect Buck Rogers comic strips! For the next four or five years, move into the future. And don’t listen to any more damn fools after this.”

And that’s what I did. I started collecting Buck Rogers again. And I began to write when I was 12 years old, about going to the moon, about going to Mars, about moving out into the universe.

Thank God I made that decision. Against all the people who said don’t do that.

Because science fiction in those days didn’t exist. We had maybe two or three books a year. You had to wait for six months, or eight months, for a new book to come out.

So I made my decision – I began to write.

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Carrie Fisher Hosptalized After Heart Attack

Carrie Fisher suffered a massive heart attack aboard an airplane about 15 minutes before it was due to land in Los Angeles this afternoon.

According to TMZ:

Our sources say Carrie was on a flight from London to LAX when she went into cardiac arrest. People on board were administering CPR.

We’re told the emergency occurred 15 minutes before the plane landed in L.A. A flight attendant asked if there were any medical personnel on board and an EMT who was sitting in the back of the plane came up to first class and administered life-saving measures.

The plane landed just after noon in L.A. and paramedics rushed her to a nearby hospital.

The LA Times latest Twitter update says she’s in critical condition –


Update: The Associated Press is now reporting

Carrie Fisher is in stable condition after suffering a medical emergency aboard a flight Friday.

Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was “out of emergency” and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon. He said he could not discuss any other details about what happened.

Update: According to Variety, her brother Todd Fisher has contradicted the Associated Press report quoted earlier

“She’s in the ICU and everybody’s praying for her,” he told Variety in a phone interview. “There’s nothing new from the doctors. There’s nothing new at all. … There’s no good news or bad news.”

Todd Fisher said media outlets are “writing between the lines” in reporting that she’s now in stable condition. The Associated Press reported earlier today that Todd Fisher said Carrie Fisher was in stable condition and “out of emergency.”

Tristina Wright’s Fans Show Holiday Love, and SFWA Apologizes for Mistake

Tristina Wright has written a series of tweets about her request for aid from the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund. Several months after applying, she got an email saying she’d been granted $4,000, then received a follow-up email saying that the notification was a mistake, the message had been intended for another applicant. A friend of Wright’s reached out to SFWA Director At Large Justina Ireland. Wright says Ireland went to bat for her unsuccessfully, and Ireland has now resigned her SFWA directorship.

Several Twitter users have pilloried SFWA for the mistake. Others have decided to help Wright by making direct contributions to Wright through Patreon, and a crowdsourced fund appeal has been set up.

SFWA, meantime, has effusively apologized for the mistake. The full text of “SFWA Apology to Tristina Wright” is at the SFWA Blog.

President Cat Rambo’s statement says in part —

I have been in correspondence with Tristina Wright and I am deeply apologetic about what happened, as I have told Ms. Wright in e-mail. This should not have happened. I and the rest of the SFWA Board apologize again to Ms. Wright again for this egregious blunder. Normally, correspondence as it pertains to the Emergency Medical Fund is held in the strictest confidence to protect the privacy of those involved, but because Ms. Wright has made the details public and people are asking for future elaboration, here is what I know of how this occurred….

I wrote earlier to Ms. Wright to apologize for the lack of response and erroneous letter sent in December. As expressed in the e-mail, I would like to have the committee re-examine her application when they have the non-SFWA member guidelines in place, but I wanted to acknowledge the fact that, given how much we’d bungled things at that point, she might not want that.  I hope she will be willing to give us another shot.

In the meantime, I’m still trying to find out how and where the process failed. It is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time we’ve had such an incident. My plan is to make it the last as well

-Cat Rambo President, SFWA

Ninety-four people contributed nearly half the target amount ($4,500) of Wright’s GoFundMe in the first two hours of fundraising.

Update 12/07/2016: It took only nine hours for the GoFundMe to be fully funded.

VanderMeer Creative Sponsors the Octavia Project for 2016-2017

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The Octavia Project, a free summer program that uses science fiction and fantasy to teach 21st century skills to underserved Brooklyn teenage girls, announced today that they will be funded by VanderMeer Creative for one year. VanderMeer Creative is run by editor Ann VanderMeer and author Jeff VanderMeer. Along with the announcement of their fiscal support of the Octavia Project for 2016-2017, VanderMeer Creative is offering an all-expense paid scholarship (including air travel) to one 2017 Octavia Project participant to attend their summer writing intensive Shared Worlds at Wofford College in South Carolina in 2018.

Named after science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, the Octavia Project is delighted with the support of the VanderMeers, who have been champions of the program since its inception. “Now in our third year, this sponsorship means we will have more time to create dynamic summer programming and get the word out to even more girls. It’s a dream come true at this stage in our development.” said co-founder and director Meghan McNamara.

McNamara also spoke of expanding their paid teaching staff and their commitment to hiring women of color as teachers and guest artists. “From the very beginning, our greatest champions have come from the science fiction community,” said co-founder and author Chana Porter. “N.K. Jemisin, Malka Older, Ibi Zoboi, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, the staff of Tor.com— these members of the science fiction community helped make the Octavia Project possible.” Porter and McNamara went on to say that the Octavia Project was created to honor, support, and celebrate the imaginations of black and brown girls in Brooklyn, immigrant girls, and LGBTQ youth.

The Octavia Project uses girls’ passion in science fiction, fantasy, fan-fiction, and gaming to teach them skills in science, technology, art, and writing, equipping them with skills to dream and build new futures for themselves and their communities. Their inspiration and namesake is Octavia E. Butler, who broke barriers in writing and science fiction to become an award-winning and internationally recognized author (Kindred, Lilith’s Brood). The Octavia Project is inspired by her visions of possible futures and commitment to social justice.

Jeff VanderMeer commented, “Most of the things we fund or donate money to, we don’t make public, but the point of it being public is to up the profile of this important program and also to bring more major sponsors to them.”

VanderMeer interviewed one of the founders, Chana Porter, about the work of the Octavia Project for Electric Literature — “We Need the Alternate Realities Living Inside Girls of Color from Brooklyn”.

VanderMeer: How do you use science fiction as part of the Octavia Project?

Porter: Meghan McNamara, a science teacher and dear friend, saw the opportunity to teach science and tech skills through SF/F writing workshops I was leading with teen girls. Over the course of the month at the Octavia Project, teen girls from Brooklyn write SF/F stories that are enriched by interdisciplinary projects. A SF story is transformed into a text-based computer game. The girls learn simple coding while building the game based around their story. The computer game is a branching narrative, and this changes the way the author has been thinking about her story. So she keeps writing, incorporating the new ideas she gleaned from the computer game project.

The next day, a professional woman architect comes to teach the basics of 3-D modeling. The girl builds a cityscape from her imaginary world. Then we take it back to the page. Building her city has changed the way she thinks about her story. Every project is connected back to storytelling at the Octavia Project. The girl designs clothes and tools from her world, then uses basic circuitry and principles of electrical engineering to create wearable electronics based on her design. This causes her to think about how tools function in her story. She takes it back to the page.

This summer our theme at the Octavia Project is “200 Years in the Future”?—?we chose this theme for a few reasons. First, it pushes our participants to think about what they want their futures and the futures of their communities to look like. We’re asking them a question “What do you want the future to be like?” and then we’re helping them build the skills to create the answer. While most people agree that scientific discoveries can make the world a better place to live in, we created the Octavia Project to help address the imbalance around who gets to benefit from current and future technologies.

While most people agree that scientific discoveries can make the world a better place to live in, we created the Octavia Project to help address the imbalance around who gets to benefit from current and future technologies.

Along with our theme, this summer we’re learning about the evolution of life on Earth. We are looking at how plants and animals have evolved to where they are today, and then we’re imagining what these plants and animals might be like hundreds of years from now. We’re asking how has life on Earth changed and what conditions or events have made it change.

Octavia Project is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit arts service organization, and donations are tax deductible.